Is police body camera video a public record?

Posted at 11:04 PM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 01:04:24-05

Is the video recorded by police officers’ body cameras a public record?

That’s a question a special state committee will address Thursday afternoon as it votes to recommend guidelines for the use and retention of body camera evidence by Arizona law enforcement agencies.

The special committee was created after a piece of controversial legislation was introduced earlier this year. Its recommendations will be sent to lawmakers.

Senator John Kavanagh introduced SB1300 this spring. The bill would have restricted public access to body camera videos.

SB1300 ended up being gutted except for a provision that created the work group to study the issue. However, it’s likely a similar bill will be re-introduced in the coming legislative session. 

Phoenix media attorney David Bodney is a member of the special committee. He said restricting public access to these videos would be a mistake.

“If we were to pass a law in Arizona that says presumptively the public doesn't get to see these images, what a horrible message that would send about our concern about truth and justice,” Bodney said.

News media outlets in Arizona and across the country have obtained body camera video and other similar evidence like dash camera footage through public record and freedom of information requests for years.

These types of videos have been used to expose police brutality,but also clear officers who were wrongly accused of misconduct.

In Arizona, concerns have been raised concerns about the video identifying children, bystanders, victims and undercover officers.

Kavanagh has also said that he worries that some people or companies could obtain the videos and then use them to embarrass or extort people charged with crimes.